Dragon's Dogma takes place in an open world for the player to explore. Not far into the game, the player will need to create a new character, which is to become the main protagonist. The player can edit the appearance of this character, as well as their main pawn, once they get the chance to create one.
Dragon's Dogma allows the player to create their own character, whose gender and appearance can be altered to the player's liking through a multitude of selections. Once the appearance is selected, the player must select one of three Classes that determine the fighting style of their characters.
The mage is a masters of elemental magicks that can destroy enemy opponents, while keeping their party alive with restorative abilities. On the flip side, they have low health and defense and can go down easy when the focus of enemy attacks.
The strider wields dual daggers and a shortbow which allows them to deal damage with quick speed and accuracy. They are similar to thief classes in other games, with trap abilities and trick arrows that disorientate enemies.
Not too far into the game, the player will have the ability to create their Main Pawn, which will be a constant companion throughout their journey. In addition to this, the player can also have two other Pawns that can join them, which are from other players. The player can hire secondary pawns from the Rift Stone, which can be found in set places and they will require Rift Crystals.
Other than the Main Pawn, secondary pawns cannot have their skills or AI changed, although their equipment can be changed; their original equipment is returned upon dismissing the pawns. Any new equipment put on a pawn is considered a gift and will not be able to be retrieved. Also note that hired pawns will not level up with the player and their Main Pawn.
The Affinity System is in place to choose a love interest for your character at two pivotal points in the game's story. There are many NPCs in the game that can become your love interest, which has an important impact on a specific element in the story.
A NPC's affinity will rise and fall depending on how and how often you interact with them. Note that there is no visible stat to determine where one's affinity is, although there are some key ways the game mentions it, which are described below:
- Lowest - NPC runs away from you. Note that over time, this will increase until it's back to normal.
- Normal - NPC does nothing
- NPC will greet you when you approach
- When you talk to the NPC, you will hear a chime
- When you talk to the NPC, he/she blushes
- Highest - There's a pink halo over the NPC's head when you talk to him/her
You can raise affinity by talking to them regularly, giving gifts, completing quests, doing their escort quest, or by giving an Arisen's Bond. You can lower affinity by ignoring them, running past them, running into them, unsheathing your weapon in front of them, carrying/throwing them, and by hurting/killing them (they respawn after a few in-game days if you kill them).